Trailing at the half, South Carolina (2-2) put on the defensive clamps in the second half as they defeated FIU (6-3), 84-72, at Colonial Life Arena this afternoon as four Gamecocks scored in double figures for the second time this season.
Junior Tyrone Johnson matched his season high with 18 points and recorded seven assists, while freshmen Jaylen Shaw and Demetrius Henry had career days with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Shaw went 4-7 from 3-point range. Senior guard Brenton Williams also chipped in 16 points as well.
After forward Rakeem Buckles hit a 3-pointer in opening minute from the right side to give FIU 3-1 lead, the Gamecocks answered with six points over next two minutes to take a four point lead and force the Panthers to call a timeout. FIU guard Jason Boswell cut the deficit to one though with a 3 out of the timeout.
After a long jumper from Buckles gave FIU an 11-9 lead at the 13:56 mark, Shaw responded with back-to-back 3-pointers to give Carolina a 15-11.
The Panthers though scored six points over in a minute to knot it up at 17-17, but Johnson hit a three for Carolina just before the under-12 media timeout to give the Gamecocks a 20-17 lead.
After a 3 from Williams for the Gamecocks out of a 30-second timeout at the 10:11 mark, the Panthers went on an 8-0 run in less than two minutes to take a 27-23 lead.
Carolina was able to equalize at 31-31 with 4:39 remaining in the half after Johnson split the defense and hit a floater with seconds left on the shot clock after pulling the ball back out with under 10 on the clock.
The Gamecocks grabbed a 34-33 lead with 3:10 left after Williams found Shaw in the right corner for his third 3-pointer of the half. Johnson then found sophomore forward Michael Carrera in the same spot minutes later to give the Gamecocks a four-point advantage with under two minutes in the half.
FIU was able to take a one-point lead with 27 seconds left, before Tymell Murphy went the length of the court in the final seconds and laid it in at the buzzer to give the Panthers a 42-39 lead at the break. The Panther guard recorded 13 of his game-high 22 points in the first half.
Both teams shot well throughout the half, going above their season averages in the opening half with South Carolina shooting 16-31 (51.6 percent) from the floor, while FIU shot 14-25 (56 percent) form the field and hit 11-13 (84.6 percent) from the free throw line.
With the two teams trading points throughout the early going in the second half that saw three lead changes, a pair of free throws by sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas tied the game up at 51-51 at the 15-minute mark. Following a missed jumper from Murphy, freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell found an open Shaw on the right side for his fourth 3 of the game, forcing FIU to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Williams stole the ball from Mavin Dennis before finding Shaw for a lay-in at the other end to give the Gamecocks a 56-51 lead with 12:03 remaining. The bucket capped a 9-2 run for Carolina.
After a lay-up by Dennis cut South Carolina's lead to three, Williams hit his second 3-pointer of the game to extend the lead to six. The Panthers answered back though with a pair of 3s over the next two minutes from Dominique Williams and Murphy to cut the Gamecocks lead to 65-61 with 8:24 remaining.
Thornwell ended a three-minute drought with a jumper at the 5:24 mark, which extended South Carolina's lead to six after both teams turned up the defensive pressure. With just under four minutes remaining, Williams turned Murphy over in the backcourt and took it in for a one-handed dunk to push the lead to 69-61.
After Marco Porcher Jiminez cut South Carolina's lead to four with under two minutes to play, Johnson scored five points over the next minute, going 5-6 from free throw line to push the lead to nine.
The Gamecocks hit eight free throws over the final minute and Thornwell added a dunk with seconds remaining to give South Carolina the 84-72 win. The 84 points was the most scored this season by the Gamecocks.
South Carolina held FIU to just 10-25 (27.3 percent) from the field in the second half after the Panthers shot over 55 percent during the first 20 minutes. The Gamecocks shot 30-59 (50.8 percent) from the field for the game, and hit a season-high 8-19 (42.1 percent) from the beyond on arc.
Along with Henry, Johnson, Shaw and Williams who were in double figures, Kacinas recorded nine points and nine rebounds.
South Carolina will be off until Dec. 6 when the team travels to Stillwater, Okla., to face No. 7/9 Oklahoma State. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:30 p.m., ET and will be televised on ESPNU.